South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said Thursday that Mitt Romney is beginning to look like the eventual Republican presidential nominee, and nudged Romney's rivals toward exiting the race.
DeMint, an influential conservative senator, met with Romney today on Capitol Hill; the former Massachusetts was in Washington today to wage a charm offensive with Republicans in Congress.
While DeMint hasn't endorsed a candidate, he gave Romney significant cover with conservatives -- a group with whom Romney has struggled occasionally during the primary season.
That extended to musing that the best thing for the Republican Party might be for Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum to consider throwing their support to Romney.
"They can drag it out to the convention if they want," DeMint said of Romney's two main rivals, "but I think if some of them look at where they are, the best thing they could do was maybe look at kind of throwing their support behind the one who might be our nominee. Its beginning to look like Romney."
DeMint said he talks to Santorum over the phone, and emails Gingrich occasionally. Those two candidates have argued Romney isn't conservative enough to deserve the nomination, but DeMint, who endorsed Romney for president during the 2008 primary, said he never doubted Romney's credentials.
"I never really questioned his conservative credentials," DeMint said.